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Is There Enough Lithium To Make All The Batteries?

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-07-18      Origin: Site

Lithium is one of the key components in electric vehicle (EV) batteries, but global supplies are under strain because of rising EV demand.

The world could face lithium shortages by 2025, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says, while Credit Suisse thinks demand could treble between 2020 and 2025, meaning “supply would be stretched”.

About 2 billion EVs need to be on the road by 2050 for the world to hit net zero, the IEA says, but sales stood at just 6.6 million last year, and some carmakers are already selling out of EVs.

Lithium supply faces challenges not only from surging demand, but because resources are concentrated in a few places and over half of today’s production is in areas with high water stress.

Future developments with batteries or manufacturing methods could eventually alleviate some lithium shortages.Lithium


Lithium is a non-ferrous metal known as “white gold”, and is one of the key components in EV batteries, alongside nickel and cobalt. But rising demand for Electric Vehicles is straining global lithium supplies.

Global EV purchases jumped to 6.6 million in 2021 from 3 million a year earlier, meaning that EVs made up 9% of the market, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). They accounted for all the growth in worldwide car sales, which rose to 66.7 million last year, up from 63.8 million in 2020. This implies that non-EV sales fell by 700,000.


Sales of petrol and diesel cars are projected to slide even more quickly in the coming decade, as more countries pledge to phase them out. At last year’s COP26 climate talks, 30 governments said they would stop sales of new petrol and diesel models by 2040.

A lithium-ion battery pack for a single electric car contains about 8 kilograms (kg) of lithium, according to figures from US Department of Energy science and engineering research centre Argonne National Laboratory.

Global lithium production totalled 100,000 tons (90.7 million kg) last year, while worldwide reserves stand at about 22 million tons (20 billion kg), according to the US Geological Survey.


Dividing lithium production by the amount needed per battery shows that enough lithium was mined last year to make just under 11.4 million EV batteries. This is a level that annual electric vehicle purchases could hit soon, after first-quarter sales rose by 75% on the year to touch 2 million, according to IEA figures.


The world’s lithium reserves are theoretically sufficient to meet the expected rise in demand. However, this assumes all of the reserves can be brought into production, and that all of them are good enough for use in batteries, which is unlikely.

“Only a handful of companies can produce high-quality, high-purity lithium chemical products,” the IEA says. “While several planned expansion projects are in the pipeline, there is a question mark over how rapidly their capacity can come online.”


Lithium mines that started operations between 2010 and 2019 took an average of 16.5 years to develop, according to the IEA report The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions. McKinsey estimates that over 80% of mining projects are completed late.

The IEA says the world could face lithium shortages by 2025. And Credit Suisse says lithium demand could treble between 2020 and 2025, meaning “supply would be stretched”.

Campaign group Transport and Environment says there is only enough lithium to produce up to 14 million EVs in 2023, Reuters reports. Given the trajectory of EV sales, as shown in the chart below, that could leave many would-be buyers empty handed.



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